one name you need to know

I am going to tell you the name of one person, and I want you to remember it. Her name is Nikita Gill. If you google her or search her name on Instagram, she will pop up right away. Why, you ask?

Not because she is a famous influencer, living her life on display and recommending what clothes to buy, what drinks to taste, what brands to follow, or what music to listen to.

Not because she is pop star, being the lucky one to get through the hardships to the very stars. So high in the stars that the green planet looks so small.

Not because she is a politician who voices the opinions of those who are silenced, ignored, repressed, or oppressed.

Not because she is an owner of a cute puppy, making money of each cute post of the fluffy ball and spreading the promo codes on dog clothes or puppy treats.

No, she is famous because she understands people’s hearts, minds, and souls. She is popular because whatever she posts rings a bell for you. She is known not for her looks or clothes, but for her words and thoughts. Her beautiful words.

Nikita Gill is a famous poet and writer. Someone who will explain YOU to yourself. Someone who will touch a hidden string of your heart. Someone who will make you doubt everything you believed in before and force you to discover the truth within yourself. Someone who will become closer to you than your friend, sister, your mother.

One tiny piece of advice: when you come across her book of poems, please, just please read them to music. Put some inspirational music as the background and forget about the whole world. Let it just be you and her poems. No one and nothing else. Just you. Just a poem. Just the beauty in the world. And in your heart.

Remember. It is just one name you need to know. Her name is Nikita Gill.

Ode to Books

I have always loved books. Truly, sometimes books are more loyal than best friends. In many ways, they are.

Always available, always there for you. They understand you, and you try to understand them.

They make you laugh. You cry with them. They are next to you, ready to share an intimate moment any time of the day. They are ready to talk whenever you need it.

Books do not lie. They do not betray. They chose to tell the truth even though nobody asked them to.

Books are not jealous. And you are not jealous of them. They belong to everyone and no one.

Good books leave a mark on you. They become part of your heart. Great books become part of your family.

In so many ways, books are our loyal friends. For some, they become best friends.

So many times I thought this or that person would be my best friend forever. So many times, it did not happen.

Only books can make “forever and ever” truly possible.

A little thing that can change a lot.

This spring – right before all the craziness with Covid-19 – I have started meditating, for the first time in my life. Nobody encouraged me to do that. No one recommended an app or some YouTube channel to listen to. It happened spontaneously. It came to me naturally. Since last year I have started having anxiety. It probably had roots in my family’s financial problems and my own personal conflicts. Once, in April, I was taking a walk to clear my mind, calm down my nerves, and stop negative thoughts. And I couldn’t do it. I realized at that moment that I could not control my anxiety anymore. It controlled me. It became this grotesque monster, eating me from the inside. I felt hopeless. I understood I needed help. Absentmindedly, I clicked on the audio-book app and downloaded the first available mediation book.

Truly best choice I had made at that moment. The audio-book turned out to be the perfect meditation guide for beginners. For 21 days, it had daily 10-minute tracks which introduced basic things about meditation. I remember turning on the first track during my walk, and a soft, soothing female voice reassured me that everything would be okay. I would figure it out. Life was beautiful and problems were momentarily. And peace was still possible despite the anxiety. 10 minutes was enough for me to understand I wanted to do it every day. This absolute harmony of mind and body could be addictive. And I did not mind that positive addiction.

It did become a healthy habit for me. Rarely there is a day when I don’t meditate now. It has been 5 months since I started meditating, and my desire has been only increasing to make it part of my life – forever. Every day these 20 minutes (I now meditate for more than 10 mins) are the blissful moments of relaxation of the body and stillness of the mind. Every time it is different. Every day I learn something about myself. It is kind of cool to watch your own mind, notice when it drifts away, and bring it back to the present moment. You feel so powerful by letting it go.

I think one needs to grow up to meditate. To my shame, I used to have wrong assumptions about meditation and people who did it. I used to be friends with someone who would meditate for 3 hours a day, and I thought he was insane, spending so much time in the world of the mind, instead of living in reality. I thought it was crazy to meditate every day. I was really immature. I judged. I needed to grow up and discover meditation years later. It is funny how things turn out in our lives and how much we change.

If you struggle with anger issues, depression, anxious thoughts, pessimism, I do encourage you to try meditation. It made me feel so much better. I believe it will do the same to you. It can be a little thing that can change a lot in you and your life.

Keep calm and choose meditation.

Online Fall

The trees have stared changing their bright-green color, and a new semester has slowly crawled up to us. Here we are – September, 2020 – the year of Covid-19, quarantine, and online studying for everyone involved in the education. In Canada, most schools resumed in-person classes while the universities opted for online education for the whole semester. The decision about Winter semester has not been made yet, but I feel that Covid-related cases will soon go up and the second lock-down is very real in the near future.

Last week was the first time I used Zoom after two months of a summer break. I was nervous to meet up to 200 students online – I am teaching five different courses at two universities this semester. It is such a strange feeling to see my students as little boxes of moving faces instead of me standing in front of the audience and reading everyone’s body language, hearing the tone of their voices, and feeling the overall atmosphere of the room. Even though the first impression can be wrong, seeing someone in person gives you the much-needed information to establish a healthy relationship – compared to meeting a person behind the screen for the first time and trying to catch as much emotion as possible from a tiny square in which everyone is enclosed. It is such a fragmented sense of people and environment.

What I noticed right away this semester is that if before, the students would come to my class and rarely talk to each other to make friends as all of them were from different departments, and they met together in this classroom only for the required English course – if before it was like that, now, I guess, after months of no social contact and isolation, they are really hungry for communication, thirsty for any human contact. I noted this right away. They told me they were happy I chose Zoom (not asynchronous type of teaching) to meet regularly and discuss the material. They did not mind turning on their cameras. They wrote 100! messages in the chat (one of Zoom options) during our first class to greet each other and exchange their social media information. And you know, I am happy that my class can contribute, even a little bit, to the students’ feeling of belonging, sense of community, and healthy communication in these lonely times.

So, here we are – Fall semester. Cameras are on, volume up, zoom in and zoom out. It is new. It is weird. But at least we are all in this together. So, let’s get the best of this year and have maybe-the most memorable semester in our life. Zoom-zoom!

Behind the screen

We do live in the world where texting is slowly replacing calling or talking in person. Texting is easy, fast, convenient. Very often, you can hide your true emotions behind the texts as, no matter how good an emoji you choose, it cannot replace your face expression, your voice or intonation, your eyes, and body language. It simply cannot. There is limitation to texting. Lack of personal touch, emotional note.

Yesterday one of my best friends called me, crying, to say that her boyfriend broke up with her. They have dated for almost a year. Living in different cities, they managed to come see each other almost every two weeks. They spent all their vacation days with each other, and in summer they lived together for two months. They got to know the families and friends of each other. They had plans for future. They wanted to be together. Until yesterday.

Yesterday he broke up with my friend. And he did it over a text message. He wasn’t ready for commitment or anything serious. And while he explained to her in great detail what was not working for him, the text message left so many things unanswered. My friend was in the state of shock. She called me to ask for help, and we talked for hours. I felt so much pain for her. I cried for her loss. And while it was about her heartbreak, it also brought so many memories for me.

I’ve also had an experience of getting this kind of goodbye texts from boyfriends. These texts were from someone I spent years with. Someone I was ready to share my life with. Somebody we decided to move in together. Yet, despite that, their choice of break-up was sending a text message and being done with it. And while I could understand the reason for separation, I could never understand the way it was done – through a poor text message.

If you had the desire to spend weeks, months or years with one person. If you let this person into your life. If you shared good, bad, or usual days with him or her. If you kissed their lips, their face, their body. If you let them into your circle of friends and family. If you took them seriously. If you let them open their heart and trust you. If you said your first “I love you” to their face, have the courage to say goodbye while looking in their eyes. I know it is extremely hard to reject or hurt someone, and you might think text message is an easier way to let that person go, but it is easier for you. Not for them. You end up hurting them two times: first, by not reciprocating their feeling of love; and, second, by not respecting them enough to say it in person, to look in their eyes and say honestly: I do not love you anymore.

Don’t break up with your partner over a text message. You might have your valid reasons to end relationships, but end them in a humane way. Cell phones do not have a heart, but you do. Show your emotions to this person for the last time. Don’t hide behind the screen. Don’t.

(Boundaries)

All the recent self-help books talk about the importance of boundaries in our life. To maintain your own inner peace and harmony, you got to set boundaries, especially with the closest people in your environment. Mothers, fathers, siblings, partners, children, friends. Boundaries are needed when you feel unwanted influence, interference, or undesirable participation in your life.

Up till the age of 32, I have never set up healthy boundaries. I’ve let myself be affected by other opinions, judgement, advice, criticism, and influence. My flexibility or even dependence has played a bad joke on me. I’ve struggled to make my own decisions, always doubting myself and seeking advice from the closed ones. When my close people criticized me, I instantly agreed with them, without questioning for a second. I could not defend myself when I heard hurtful things I did not agree with. I did things for friends or family even though I was against them. I listened to everyone without hearing my own voice. I let people decide what kind of life I should have and what kind of person I should be.

Only now I have started realizing that and setting up my own boundaries. I am slowly teaching myself to listen to my heart first and then hear others opinions. I am learning to pause before agreeing right away. If my partner gives me the instant solution to my problem, I do not follow the advice immediately. I ask myself: Is this really what I would do without his advice? When my sibling pours negativity in the message, I answer with a simple positive statement without letting myself get drowned in the pool of pessimism. If my parents or his parents judge how I live or what I do, I stop myself from reacting to that and keep doing what I want to do. I am learning to say ‘No’ more often. I am learning to protect myself from unwanted guidance or emotional impact.

It is hard. Damn hard because people get hurt. They think that you distance yourself from them. That you don’t want to be close anymore or that their opinion means nothing to you. In these moments, you want to break down and let it go. Agree and follow. Isn’t it easier for everyone? For who? For you? Or for them? Exactly in these moments, the hardest times, you have to stand strong and resist the temptation of being the old you. You are your new self. You are setting the boundaries even if you think it is too late. Better late than never.

love-hate relationships

Relationships with the city you are living in are as complicated as relationships you are having with a loved one. Sometimes it is love at first sight. Often times, love fades away and you see another side of the city.

The first time I saw Taipei from the window of the airplane, I instantly felt it was a city of insane energy and endless fun. I fell in love with it the minute I landed and took the first breath of city air. A strange, unfamiliar smell promised a new adventure and a different life. I was in love for the first time. In love with a person, and in love with a new city. Every day I woke up with the feeling of excitement to be living in one of the coolest metropolitan cities in Asia. Hundreds of events were happening in all parts of the city. Every day I tried a new restaurant, and every day I was pleasantly surprised by something new. I was deeply in love, and I felt the city loved me back. I liked how cheap street food was. How sunny and hot the days were. How different the fashion style people had. How beautiful the palm trees looked at the university I was studying at. I loved how often I got compliments about my looks. How friendly all the vendors were. How organized the public transport was. How much of the nightlife I had. I liked everything and everyone at this moment. I was in love.

I loved this city for the whole one year. I broke up with my first love in a year, and something happened to my relationships with the city as well. Involuntarily, I started seeing a different side of it. And I hated it. I hated the intense, never-ending humidity when nothing ever dried out overnight. I hated having ants and lizards in my room (hello, subtropical climate). I hated the bland taste of steamed vegetables in the restaurants. I hated having rice 3 times a day. I hated being always the tallest person in the bus. I hated the times when people wanted to take a picture of me without trying to talk to me or be my friend. I hated the fact that no matter how much I studied the Chinese language, I could never have deep conversations and form close friendships with Taiwanese people. I hated meaningless parties, hangovers, and phone numbers of random guys who never wanted commitment. I hated being alone without family and friends. I hated being a foreigner. I fell out of love.

It was love-hate relationships with the city. Many years later, when I moved to live in another city, another country, I formed new relationships with a new city, but I never forgot Taipei. It was my first pure love – beautiful and ugly at the same time. And even though I left the city on a bad note with many heavy feelings in my heart, I remember it now in warm, bright colors. And I do want to give this city another chance. After all, don’t we all deserve a second chance?

Every puppy is unique

Last week we finally met our puppy Taco. We had been preparing for him for the last 2 months, watching YouTube videos, reading blogs and articles, stocking house with all the necessary pet stuff. Last week we finally met him and fell in love at first sight and sniff. Even though it has been only a week living with him, we have already learned so much about this adorable floofy doof.

Here are the things we discovered about Taco during his first week at our home:

— his coat is mostly chocolate, but he has a white spot on his chin, and it looks like he has just been eating sour cream and spilled it on himself 🐶

— when he is super excited about his hooman, he runs and gives a smooch on the lips, just like a human being 💋

— he is a big fan of flowers and plants: he cannot pass anything green without smelling and tasting it. We think he was a botanist in another life 🌿

— he loves chasing ants, and their fast moves make him really excited and playful 🐜

— when he is in an unknown situation, he gets very clingy and does want to let you go: he is a very sensitive boy 😊

— he falls asleep while we drive in a car. He is definitely a car loving puppy 🚙

— he prefers yogurt to peanut butter and banana to apple 🍌

— he has hiccups after too much playing and being too agitated🤭

— during our walks, he has a habit of sitting down in the middle of the street refusing to go further, and it takes a lot of effort to push him to continue the walk; we still haven’t figured out what he wants to say by that 🤔

— he loves the sight of leaves whirling in the wind — it mesmerizes him 🍃

— in a deep sleep, he has dreams and shakes his paws as if running away from a wolf 🐾

— he loves chewing hair and beard of his owners 😈

— sometimes when he wants to sleep near you, he would put his face on your neck. We think it is an old habit of puppies sleeping on each other when being born. It is definitely something that brings him comfort and peace 😴

— overall, he is a very sweet, affectionate and people-loving puppy, but he can be naughty and mischievous at the same time. He definitely has a big personality 🐕‍🦺

He might outgrow some of these habits in future, but we will always love every trait and every change in him. Every puppy is unique, and Taco is no exception.

To see Taco’s growth and life journey, follow his instagram @taco.labradoodle ❤️

One true sentence

Hemingway once said, if you have a blank paper in front of you and you struggle to write anything, “just write one true sentence.” Just one true statement. And then it will flow naturally.

“I feel very sad today” is my sentence.

Today I feel sad because it is raining heavily and I haven’t seen the sun for a few days. The sky is depressingly grey.

I feel sad because I was not invited to an interview for a job I thought I was fully qualified for. I spent hours on my cover letter and video resume. Years looking for a dream job.

I feel sad because the coffee did not taste good, and it did not wake me up. I look like a sloth, pushing myself to do something for the whole day.

I feel sad because I called the post office, and they still have zero information about my package which has been in transit for a month and 2 days precisely.

I feel sad because I finished watching the drama series Legend of the Blue Sea and I will never live this story with these characters again.

I feel sad because I tried to exercise today and had to switch from intermediate level core workout to a beginner one, and I was still out of breath. Out of shape.

I feel sad because, just because it is one of those days when you want to stay in bed and let the world wait.

And I thought I would not be able to write anything today. Everything starts with one true statement. It is so true.

Do you have a dream?

— Mom, do you have a dream?

— Dreams are for storytellers and helpless romantics.

— So are you saying it is a bad thing to have dreams in life?

— I am saying that it is better to have goals. Concrete, feasible aims and clear steps towards them.

— Dad always dreams.

— He dreams about impossible, unreal things. What’s the use of that?

— I don’t know. It makes him happy.

— Delusional happy. Nothing changes for him in reality. Don’t ever day-dream. Don’t waste your life.

— Have you ever had a dream?

— No, I don’t know how to dream. I don’t have enough imagination.

— So, even when you were a little kid, you never had a dear dream?

— Mm, the only thing I have ever dreamed of was to be like my sister, to look like her, to live her life, to always be together.

— You must have loved her so much.

— After she died, I stopped dreaming. Because dreaming is unreliable. You cannot control dreams. You will only get disappointed when your dreams are crushed in the brutal reality of the world.

Silence. What else can be said?

She went to her room, thinking, “If the world is so cruel, can the dreams be our comfort?”

“Unreliable, dangerous, useless, delusional,” she repeated the words without stop until she fell asleep. And in her dream, she saw her aunt take her hand and look deeply into her face. “Don’t be afraid to dream,” she said, “don’t be afraid to believe in the impossible.”

She woke up with a smile on her face and a dream in her heart.